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MANY causes have contributed to render a book about Shakspeare a literary want. Since August. W. Schlegel delivered his celebrated Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, much has been done both for the history and for the just appreciation of the great poet, not only in Germany, where the distinguished labours of Tieck deserve especial mention, but also in England. In France, too, Shakspeare has been welcomed and his merits acknowledged. I allude merely to such works as-
W. Hazlitt's Characters of Shakspeare's Plays. 1817.
graphy of the Poet, Criticisms on his Genius and Writings,
&c. 2 vols. 4to. Lond. 1818. The same: Memorials of Shakspeare. Lond. 1828. Rob. Hares. A Glossary or Collection of Words, Phrases,
Names and Allusions to Customs, Proverbs, &c. which have been thought to require illustration in the works of English authors, particularly Shakspeare and his Contemporaries.
1823. Aug. Skottowe. The Life of Shakspeare, with Essays on his
Dramatic Plots, &c. 1824. Th. Warton. The History of English Poetry. A new edition.
Lond. 1821. 4 vols. J. Payne Collier. The History of English Dramatic Poetry to
the time of Shakspeare, and Annals of the Stage to the Restoration, 3 vols. Lond. 1831.
J. Payne Collier. New Facts regarding the Life of Shakspeare. In a Letter to Th. Amyot, Esq. Lond. 1835.
New Particulars regarding the Works of Shakspeare. In a Letter to the Rev. A Dyce. Lond. 1836. Mrs. Jameson. Characteristics of Women, 2 vols. Lond.
1832. Translated into German by Wagner. Leipz. 1834. James Boaden. On the Sonnets of Shakspeare, identifying the
person to whom they were addressed. Lond. 1837. Coleridge. Literary Reviews, &c. Charles Lamb. Essays on the Tragedies of Shakspeare in the
Essays of Elia. Thomas Price. The Wisdom and Genius of Shakspeare. Villemain. Cours de Litterature Française. Bruxelles, 1834. Chateaubriand. Essais sur la Litterature Anglaise. Appendix
to the Translation of Milton. Paris, 1836. Ch. Magnin. Les Origines du Théâtre Moderne, etc. tom. i.
What has appeared in Germany need not be here mentioned by
Of the olden Shakspeare-Literature, down to the year 1823, an accurate census will be found in the “ Erlauterungen” of Fr. Horn.
Most of the English works in the above list have been written under the conviction that a nice and accurate knowledge of contemporary art is requisite for a correct understanding of Shakspeare. It had been seen that the grand tree of Shakspeare's poesy could never have flourished in any other than a good and rich soil - a soil so rich, indeed, that its luxuriant fertility must necessarily have produced many other like excellent fruits. Accordingly, the composition of these historical treatises has been accompanied with valuable editions of the dramas of the earlier and later contemporaries of Shakspeare. Thus, besides Gifford's Ben Jonson, Massinger, Ford and Shirley, and the collected works of Marlowe, Beaumont and Fletcher, and others, we must particularly mention A. Dyce's editions of G. Peele (1829), Webster (1830), and R. Greene (1831). The edition of Ben Jonson, recently published by Moxon, with the introductory memoir by Barry Cornwall, has not yet reached my hands. And so too, unfortunately the Collection of English Miracle-Plays, or Mysteries, &c., by William Marriott, (Basle, 1838), did not appear before half of the present work had been printed : it does however confirm what I have advanced concerning these first beginnings of dramatic art. But it is to Payne Collier that Shakspeare and the history of the English drama is most largely indebted. By his careful and diligent research among the public and private libraries of England, and particularly that of Bridgewater House, he has succeeded in discovering many an important document, and thereby he has not only confirmed much that was previously doubtful, but has also brought to light many new and unexpected particulars. By these he has rendered the biography of Shakspeare, and especially the chronology of his dramatic works, much less conjectural than it formerly was. This was ground which English labourers alone could work successfully. On the other hand, I think I do them no great injustice in saying, that it is Germany, and particularly Schlegel and Tieck, that have introduced a better spirit and a livelier interest into this domain. At least it is very pleasing to see how many of Tieck's conjectures have been confirmed by the discoveries of Collier and others. In criticism, too, these German scholars have led the way with the very best examples. Tieck especially has the merit of having in his translations collated the readings of the old Quarto and the Folio, and thereby sweeping away the chaff of the arbitrary, and for the most part prosaic corrections of the English Editors. How greatly he has thereby contributed to the elucidation of the poet may be judged, for instance, from his Macbeth.
But, on the other hand, æsthetics and philosophical criticism have in Germany at least made considerable progress since the days of Schelling, Solger, &c. The new philosophy has disused itself to look upon art merely as the cheerful play of the imitative faculty, whose highest end is simply the recreation of toil-wearied humanity. It is no longer regarded as a paradox, to maintain, that in art, the noblest, chiefest, and fairest flowers of the human mind expand themselves, that it is a channel of divine revelation -a lever for the advancement of the history of the species towards its last great end. And above all, the conviction is now pretty general, that the depth of the christian mind comprehends the greatest treasures of the true materials of art, and that no works but such as are intimately and purely pervaded with this spirit can make a just claim to the high dignity of a work of art.
In two respects the present work seems to me calculated to meet a want in our present German literature. It proposes to make the scientific world of Germany acquainted with the results of the historical researches of Englishmen, and also to exhibit in its historical foundation, development, and attendant circumstances, the great historical fact which lies eternally present before us in the poetry of Shakspeare. And besides this, it was my wish to give an estinate of Shakspeare, from the high points of view of modern æsthetics,—of christian æsthetics, I would rather
say, did I not fear that at this word many would begin to cry out, Pietism! Pietism! and begin to argue, that I made of the great poet, who as such could be no Christian, a proselyte, or even a Pietist, while others would say that I had made him out a poor sinner, before the tribunal of a religious and moral pedantry. But I have done neither : even because he was himself a good Christian, and so confessed himself a sinner. I have therefore confined myself to set forth the profundity and sublimity of his poetical view of life, which was simply on this account sublime and profound, because it was Christian, and Christian also, even because it was profound and sublime. For this reason, my first